Cyber forensics

How to Use Cyber forensics to Decode VPNs and TOR

Cyber forensics or computer forensics is an electronic discovery strategy applied to regulate and disclose digital evidence for legal purposes. Likewise, cyber forensics covers all the activities involved in making digital data fitting for insertion into a criminal investigation. Although the field of cyber forensics is still somewhat new, it is rapidly gaining traction as a feasible method of deciphering technical evidence.

Cybercrimes range from identity theft, email hacking, wired fraud, to downloading copyrighted pieces for distribution or invasion of privacy. There is a wide spectrum of cybercrimes and they are all driven by the desire to make profits from someone else’s loss, including intellectual property or private information.

Developers typically design program applications that help to capture and mitigate digital crimes. These digital tools are the heart of cyber forensics investigations.

With a CHFI certification course you can learn how to use cyber forensics to decode VPNs and Tor, click here for more information.

What is TOR in cybersecurity?

Tor is a prevalent 2nd generation execution of “The Onion Routing” topology designed to offer privacy and anonymity to its users. TOR is a free and open-source application that facilitates anonymous interactions. So basically, what TOR does is to prevent you from being sloppy and making your identity and location known to others.

However, TOR doesn’t actually stop online services from uncovering when it is being accessed through its software. It secures the privacy of users, but it doesn’t conceal the fact that someone is using TOR. Some websites block or restrict certain user allowances through TOR.

Tor accomplishes user anonymity through its reputed Onion Routing, by encrypting and later randomly redirecting traffic via a network of relays. Each one of these relays implements its individual layer of encryption to ensure anonymity. Thus, its comparison to an ‘onion.’

The privacy and security afforded by TOR were initially developed to secure the interactions among journalists, government agencies, and other non-governmental establishments. TOR provides anonymity and privacy to its online users through two unique methods:

  • The first method depends on various encryption iterations to conceal the whole traditional IP packets.
  • The second method depends on superficially random network ingress points, egress points, and routing hops to lessen the capability of an external observer to recognize the end-to-end route of a traffic flow via network surveillance or network traffic analysis.

What is VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) gives your device access to a secured tunnel that helps create a secured connection to other networks through a remote server. VPNs disguise your IP address so you can access region-restricted websites and protect your browsing movements from public views while using a Wi-Fi. A number of operating systems now incorporate VPN support.

For instance, if you are in another country, your IP address will be masked so that it looks like you are browsing the internet from that location instead of your real location. Combined with encryption, VPNs affords the best solution for online anonymity and privacy. This way eavesdroppers and prying eyes can’t know or see where you are browsing from or what you are viewing

Why do you need a VPN?

You need a VPN for the following reasons:

  • If you believe in your right to privacy and online freedom
  • If you want to bypass certain geographic restrictions on websites
  • If you want to bypass restrictions for streaming audio and video
  • If you want to protect yourself against being logged while torrenting
  • If you would like to download or seed torrents in a location where torrenting is prohibited.
  • If you want to gain access to a business network while you are on the go
  • If you reside in a country or city where there is stifling government surveillance or online censorship
  • If you don’t want to be bombarded with adverts by companies that can track your browsing habits

To learn more about VPNs and what they do, sign up for EC-Council’s CHFI certification programs and courses.

Is it legal to use TOR browser?

Only using the TOR browser is not illegal. TOR is actually legal, but it is illegal in locations and counties that want to restrict online access or free speech. The use of TOR by ordinary and law-abiding citizens is legal in spite of its link with some illegal activities. The problem with TOR is that it is not in itself illegal, it’s just that most of its users mainly use it to hide their illegal actions.

Tor draws attention to you and just knowing that you are connected to TOR has the potential to make you a target for government surveillance. Even though your internet service providers may not be able to see what you’re viewing, they can see that you’re connected to TOR. This is enough to raise suspicions. For instance, certain government agencies in the United States, including the FBI, homeland security, and NSA invest a lot in trying to track the activities of TOR users.

Can TOR be used as a VPN?

While both TOR and VPNs have certain similarities, they aren’t the same thing. VPNs basically do the same thing that TOR does, except that VPNs only have one layer, whereas TOR has multiple layers. Similarly, TOR is no VPN and it has no in-built VPN. However, TOR can be used together with a VPN to ensure maximum security while browsing on the dark web.

How Secure is TOR and VPN?

When you consider online privacy, TOR and VPNs are the best options available. To decide which is the best online solution for you between TOR and VPNs, you need to understand their features. As effective as TOR is, it doesn’t offer the same level of the security obtainable with VPNs.

Tor is awfully slow when compared to a VPN. This is because your data is routed through multiple relays, and each relay has its own unique bandwidth. As such, you are subjected to the slowest relay on your route.

Likewise, while you are streaming high-quality videos or doing anything that requires you to use high-speed connection is not a good choice for watching high-quality streaming videos or doing anything else that requires a high-speed connection, TOR is not a good option.

Although, the good thing is you don’t necessarily have to use just one. You can merge both VPN and TOR browsers for your benefits. When you use a VPN network, your whole surfing activities would look like it is coming from the VPN server instead of your computer. There are two ways to this:

VPN over TOR

If you want to remain anonymous while traversing sites that prohibit TOR users based on company policy, or if you need to access these sites while applying Tails, you will need to send your request from somewhere different from the recognizable TOR exit relay. One method of executing this and still be able to enjoy most of the benefits that come with using TOR is to include a VPN “hop” at the end of your TOR circuit.

This method allows you to first connect to the TOR network and afterward go through your VPN. With a VPN over the TOR strategy, you are protected from TOR exit nodes and your traffic will not move directly from the exit node to your final destination. Instead, it is routed from the exit node to a more secured VPN server.

One of the challenges of using this method is that it is more complicated than its alternative. The reason is that you are required to configure your VPN by yourself in such a way that it works with TOR. Another challenge is that while your real activities are hidden, your service providers and consequently governmental agencies, are permitted to know that you are using TOR.

On the plus side, configuring your VPN over TOR is a perfect method for sharing confidential information. Also, your actual IP address is hidden from your VPN provider when you use this method.

TOR over VPN

Using a TOR over a VPN configuration includes a VPN hop before your TOR entry relay, followed by access to the TOR network. At times, it is applied to access the TOR network from geographical locations where restrictions have been placed for TOR browsers. Although, it is generally considered that TOR bridge relays are the ideal methods for achieving this objective.

Unlike the VPN over TOR configuration, this method is quite easy. What you basically have to do is to connect to your VPN and afterward you open the TOR browser. In fact, some VPNs have in-built TOR services, which makes it easy to connect to TOR without using TOR browsers. However, this method will not protect you from malicious exit nodes. Moreover, if your VPN keeps logs, this method will not mask your original IP address or conceal the fact that you’re using TOR.

Why You Need CHFI Certification

EC-Council is a globally recognized certification and training company that specializes in the fields of digital forensics, ethical hacking or anti-hacking, and penetration testing. The aim of the C|HFI certification program is to authenticate the candidate’s competences and abilities to pinpoint a perpetrator’s footprints and to accurately assemble all the relevant evidence needed to take legal actions against the intruder. Moreover, EC-Council’s CHFI program is a vendor-neutral certification that endorses individuals in the particular security field of computer forensics. Visit our course page for more information on our CHFI course.

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